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Roth: Leading or following China on climate?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 10, 2017.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Leading or following China on climate?

Over the years, much has been made in American politics about whether America should do more to lead the world on solutions for combating climate change.

Now I am not talking about the “climate deniers” who are against the enormous consensus of actual scientists; those political scientists who try to score political points alleging there isn’t consensus. I am talking about that second group of politicians and prognosticators who say: “Why should we do something when China isn’t?”

But first, more about those actual scientists. According to NASA, yes that NASA, and its Global Climate Change website, climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus, “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

The following is a partial list of these organizations:

• American Scientific Associations including American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society; American Meteorological Society and the Geological Society of America.

• The United States National Academy of Sciences.

• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

• 200+ worldwide scientific organizations that hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action.

So, once you accept that scientific evidence is or may be believable, you get to the “Why should we” crowd. It is this crowd I was wondering about as America’s president met with China’s president in Florida. That is a clear departure from past administrations pushing on China, and their enormous emerging economy, to move in a more committed path towards limiting human effects on climate and global warming.

Have we agreed to follow? Is it possible that America’s new directions on energy, coal, pollution and climate change will be eclipsed by a China that is actually doing more on climate action? Let us take a look.

At the end of 2016, China released its 13th Five Year Plan for Economic and Social Development, a guidebook that has become how the Communist Party maps out China’s direction. The plan has three sub-plans focused on controlling greenhouse gas emissions, environmental protection and development of the power sector.

Taken together, these renewed pathways build upon the previous steps and measures underway that have actually reduced their coal consumption three years in a row, helping reduce China’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 0.7 percent last year.

What’s more, the three sub-plans lay out a comprehensive set of policies to benchmark China’s goals for 2020, which will allow them to actually exceed their 2030 goals in the Paris Agreement. They have capped coal usage, they have pushed even tougher caps in areas of poorer air quality and they have redoubled efforts to develop low-carbon technologies and policies.

America seems to be moving in the opposite direction, when we could and should in fact lead the charge to solve one of the greatest, if not the greatest challenge we face in our lifetimes. Our country’s outstanding DNA and drive has made us a leader in innovation, economy and moral fortitude to move others to solve global challenges. We should not reverse course now and lose the chance to lead this enormous opportunity for our lives and our economy.

What’s more, for those who feel we should not lead because others may not follow, I would ask: When does America ask for a show of hands to determine if it does the right thing? We should continue to lead and we should realize other excuses may be vanishing as other countries do more. China included.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Oklahoma, Caveat Emptor?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 3, 2017.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Oklahoma, Caveat Emptor?

As travelers enter into Oklahoma on one of 11 major highways from other states, they are greeted by a beautiful red granite monument featuring the Oklahoma state seal and the word Oklahoma.

However, to be fair, and based upon recurring actions from our state leaders, truth in advertising may require we amend the signs to read “Oklahoma, Caveat Emptor.”

“Caveat emptor” is a Latin phrase meaning “let the buyer beware.” Similar to the phrase “sold as is,” this phrase suggests that the buyer assumes the risk that a product may fail to meet expectations or be defective. The phrase is actually shortened from a longer legal concept, which is: Caveat emptor, quia ignorare non debuit quod jus alienum emit, meaning “Let the purchaser beware, for he out not be ignorant of the nature of the property which he is buying from another party.”

Now we Oklahomans surely pride ourselves on being good people who will look you in the eye and bind ourselves through our word and a handshake. Moreover, we should not need Latin phrases to prove our trustworthiness, or more accurately excuse our lack thereof. But times they are changing if the actions around our floundering state budget continue to erode the confidence of our own citizens and those precious investment dollars we invite in to help grow our state. Simply put, our erratic debtor’s behavior is making us a risky place to do business, and whether our welcome signs declare it or not, our legislative actions are spreading the word beyond our borders.

Last year, numerous bills were introduced targeting existing tax credits and other incentives, causing investors and companies in energy and aerospace to purportedly remove Oklahoma as a place to grow, expand or invest. Then near the end of the session, and without much warning, quick action immediately eliminated a tax subsidy for oil and gas wells that had become unprofitable due to the massive and sudden downturn in energy prices. Yes, an argument can be made that the budget hole necessitated drastic action, but to that operator that kept employing Oklahomans it probably felt like being kicked while you were already down.

Now this year, similar sudden action has been taken by both the House and the Senate to rip an existing tax incentive away from projects that are actually under construction in Oklahoma with the wind energy industry. Oklahoma invited billions of dollars in and now claims we cannot keep our word even though changing our word has zero effect on this coming year’s budget.

Standard & Poor’s global ratings announced in March it has lowered our bond rating a notch stating: “The downgrade reflects our view that persistently weak revenue collections – leading to a declared revenues failure for the remainder of the fiscal year (2017) – have further compounded the state’s challenge to achieve structural balance in fiscal 2018.”

These are desperate times and as is said, desperate times call for desperate measures. Our failed funding of public education is a crisis, which reverberates through our lives and economy in multiple ways beyond dropout rates and low test scores. It means higher incarceration rates and socialized expenses. It means greater poverty rates, hunger and divorce. It is a crisis and must be solved. We need steady, structural change to create revenue for our state’s needs.

However, to be erratic toward investment dollars, which we desperately need to grow our state towards more stable times, is a risk that can forever impair our state’s fullest potential. If we have become a credit risk, lenders will deploy their capital in more reliable states and the downward spiral continues here through less financing, fewer company expansions, and higher costs of debt, fewer energy projects and fewer jobs.

While desperate times may in fact exist, we Oklahomans should not ever trade in our good name. Not for an annual budget hole, not for political pressure, not for anything.

Others are watching our words and actions and they may rewrite our welcome sign for us.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Director Jim Roth sourced in article about proposed task force to examine Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission

Jim A. Roth, Phillips Murrah

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice, was quoted in a Journal Record article by Sarah Terry-Cobo regarding a House Bill that seeks to create an 11-member task force to examine Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission is structure and funding.

Read Roth’s comments from the article below:

OKLAHOMA CITY –  Utilities, drillers, and telecommunications companies could have an opportunity to scrutinize one of their regulators.

State Rep. Weldon Watson said it’s time to take a closer look at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and give those directly affected by the agency a chance to suggest changes. But at least one industry trade group representative questioned the timing and the need to dig into the agency.

Jim Roth, clean energy practice group director at Phillips Murrah, said reviewing the agency is an excellent idea.

“This is overdue,” he said. “Does the agency have all it needs structurally to function in the modern era?”

The agency and its staff of about 400 do an incredible job for very little money, Roth said. Often, some of the best employees are hired by the industries they regulate, he said.

Roth was a commissioner, serving from 2007 to 2010. He said he assumes the bill was brought with the best intentions to help the agency and the state get it right.

However, the proposed task force should be broader, he said.

“I don’t see one member of the task force without a conflict to the industry,” Roth said. “It’s important that Oklahomans not employed by these companies should have a voice.”

Read the full article at the Journal Record.

Roth: The energy baseline

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on January 16, 2017.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

The energy baseline

The following information is proven by independent, empirical data provided from the nonpartisan Energy Information Administration within the U.S. Department of Energy and is not “fake news,” although it may not jibe with the conventional wisdom created by political theater: American oil production has experienced the biggest increase in history under President Obama’s tenure, up 87 percent.

Don’t believe it? Check out the actual data between 1920 and 2016: www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MCRFPUS1&f=M.

Now to be fair, not all the credit or blame for America’s energy picture can be attributed to any incumbent president, although most observers would say that more often they get the blame than any credit.

The combination of advances in technology like deep horizontal drilling and hydraulic well stimulation has unlocked massive amounts of previously unreachable reserves. Also, high energy prices had attracted a good deal of investment in this industry, which also helped drive exploration and production. And it might even surprise you to learn that production is also up on federal lands, which did require the approval of the Obama administration.

The same real-life data also proves that “clean energy” production, in the form of renewables and even energy efficiencies, have increased at historic rates, almost tripling during the past two terms. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, cleaner-burning, abundant, American natural gas has replaced old, dirtier coal plants and transformed the power generation sector.

Yet, if you tuned into the divisive rhetoric of the 2016 campaign for president, you may have left disillusioned about America’s energy picture in spite of the facts. Signs reading “Trump digs Coal” may have helped persuade West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio voters, but the winning economics of cheaper natural gas today may trump any federal effort to prop up yesterday’s coal over the next four or eight years. Also, America now employs more people in solar energy alone versus coal, let alone the many other forms of renewable energy like wind, hydro and biomass.

The state of our country’s energy production reality is strong, and growing. And the gains and direction achieved over the last two terms have all benefited our native Oklahoma as well, with historic growth in the forms of energy with which we are blessed.

As America undergoes a change in presidential administrations, it will be interesting to see what detours from these advances are pushed and what change may occur to the current trajectories. And as it relates to the unique combination of national security and economic prosperity achievable by greater domestic oil production and less imported foreign oil, please follow the facts to see what it may mean for you, your family, your business, your state and your country.

It will be important to recall the energy benchmark of predecessors to measure whether the new guy outperforms the previous guys, as it relates to energy independence. When President Richard Nixon, in his second term, famously declared the need for “energy independence within 10 years,” America was importing 35 percent of its petroleum. Nearing the end of oil-friendly Texan George W. Bush, America was importing nearly 60 percent of its total petroleum consumption from foreign sources and now with President Barack Obama it’s down to 24 percent.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.